“  event New Orleans would be the point of departure for such an expedition.” A subsequent despatch, though it did not control, fully justified my action, repeated these general views, and stated that the commanding General “would much rather that the Red River expedition had never been begun, than that you should be detained one day beyond the first of May in commencing the movement east of the Mississippi.” The limitation of time referred to in these despatches, was based upon an opinion which I had verbally expressed to General Sherman at New Orleans, that General Smith could be spared in thirty days after we reached Alexandria; but it was predicated upon the expectation that the navigation of the river would be unobstructed; that we should advance without delay at Alexandria, Grand Ecore, or elsewhere, on account of low water; and that the forces of General Steele were to cooperate effectively at some point on the Red River near Natchitoches or Monroe. It was never understood that an expedition that involved, on the part of my command, a land march of nearly four hundred miles into the enemy's country, and which terminated at a point we might not be able to hold, either on account of the strength of the enemy or the difficulties of obtaining supplies, was to be limited to thirty days. The condition of our forces, and the distance and difficulties attending a farther advance into the enemy's country, after the battles of the eighth and ninth against an enemy superior in numbers to our own, rendered it probable that we could not occupy Shreveport within the time specified, and certain that, without a rise in the river, the troops necessary to hold it against the enemy would be compelled to evacuate it for want of supplies, and impossible that the expedition should return in any event to New Orleans in time to cooperate in the general movements of the army contemplated for the spring campaign. It was known at this time that the fleet could not repass the rapids at Alexandria, and it was doubtful, if the fleet reached any point above Grand Ecore, whether it would be able to return. By falling back to Grand Ecore, we should be able to ascertain the condition of the fleet, the practicability of continuing the movement by the river; reorganize a part of the forces that had been shattered in the battles of the seventh, eighth, and ninth; possibly ascertain the position of General Steele, and obtain from him the assistance expected for a new advance north of the river, or upon its southern bank, and perhaps obtain definite instructions from the government as to the course to be pursued. Upon these general considerations, and without reference to the actual condition of the respective armies, at twelve o'clock, midnight, on the ninth, I countermanded the order for the return of the train, and directed preparations to be made for the return of the army to Grand Ecore. The dead were buried, and the wounded brought in from the field of battle and placed in the most comfortable hospital that could be provided, and surgeons and supplies furnished for them. A second squadron of cavalry was sent, under direction of Mr. Young, of the engineer department, to inform the fleet of our retrograde movement, and to direct its return, if it had ascended the river; and on the morning of the tenth the army leisurely returned to Grand Ecore. The wounded were immediately visited by Dr. Sanger, who took with him clothing, rations, medicines, and other supplies, and reported them in comfortable condition. The fleet sailed from Grand Ecore on the seventh, and reached its destination at Loggy Bayou on the evening of the tenth, one day after the battle at Pleasant Hill, and two days after the engagement at Sabine Cross-Roads. General T. Kilby Smith received a verbal message on the evening of the tenth, and on the morning of the eleventh written orders to return. The transports were in a crippled condition, rudders unshipped and wheels broken. The enemy attacked the fleet on its return near Pleasant Hill Landing, on the twelfth, with a force of two thousand five hundred cavalry, a strong reserve infantry, and a battery of six guns, under General Greene. But the troops, protected by cotton bales and bales of hay, with the gunboats, kept up a deadly fire, and drove the enemy from the river. For two miles the bank was strewn with the wounded and dead. Among the rebel officers killed was General Greene, who was left dead upon the field. The troops of the transports saw him fall, and claim that his death was the work of their artillery — the gunboats and transports all firing at the same time. The enemy, under Liddell, who had occupied the north bank of the river with two thousand five hundred men, attacked the fleet on the thirteenth, but was driven back with loss. The navagation up and down the river was intricate and difficult, and the steamers were frequently aground. Several of the boats were laden with ammunition and ordnance stores, but the energy of the officers and men brought off every boat. The only loss in stores was a hundred sacks of oats, thrown overboard for the relief of a steamer aground. They reached Compte on the fourteenth, with a loss of one man killed and eighteen wounded, where they met a force from the army sent to their assistance, and reached Grand Ecore on the fifteenth without further obstruction. General T. Kilby Smith, to whose courtesy I am indebted for all the official information I have received of this part of the expedition, mentions with commendation Major D. C. Houston, of the engineers, who had in charge the ordnance stores, and Lieutenant-Colonel W. S. Abert, officers of my staff who accompanied him, also officers and men of his own command, and the masters of transport steamers. General Smith, who commanded the land forces and transports, is entitled to the highest commendation, for the energy, skill, and success with which he managed this most difficult affair. Lines of defence were established at Grand Ecore the twelfth of April, and orders given to
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Foreign accounts of the fight.
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